Off-season family illnesses.
"I was in Georgia when I got the call (from my wife, telling me that she had cancer). She was very upset and crying. She said she had to be operated on by Friday. She said the doctors in Memphis could do it, but that if she went to Memphis she didn't want to have an Ole Miss doctor operate on her. My brother had congestive heart failure. I had to go back and (authorize) having the plug pulled on him. Then, a month later, I lost my mother.
"(My wife) is doing very well. She is walking 3-5 miles a day. (However) we know that once you have (cancer), you have it. It's something that we will have to deal with."
"It doesn't make any difference who I want to see (as the starter). The one who is the best will be the (starter). Just like Kevin, Kyle has the confidence that he can do it. What's very positive is we have two quarterbacks, one who has been the starter.
"Kevin Fant is bigger than he was and also in better shape. He is also very relaxed. Every time he comes around he is always smiling. I have a lot more respect for Kevin because he had the ability to say that he didn't like himself and he figured out how to get happy.
"The plus is you have a quarterback with experience and is very hungry to get his job (back). When we start the fall, he'll be number 2. Kevin said, 'coach, put me anywhere you want. I will have fun and compete.' "
"We have 9 starters offensively and 9 defensively that have played. We have both kickers back. We have players who have played but we do not have a large number of seniors and juniors.
"We have some players that are All-Conference (type) players. When you talk about a receiver in this conference, an All-SEC type, one that is a game-breaker, one that can dominate a game, that's where Justin Jenkins is. T. J. Mawhinney is very tough, very physical, and loves to play football. We are very excited about Darren Williams' ability to play. We have some running backs who are very tough and talented kids who have the ability to run and catch. The only negative is they are not 225 or 230 pounds.
"The freshmen and sophomores on this team will win a lot of football games."
Incoming freshmen who will play.
"We will probably play 8 on both sides (of the ball) that will play at different times."
Determining factor that will decide who will win the conference championship.
"Everybody is is talking about the quarterbacks in this league, but the one that will be standing at the end of the year will be the one that has depth in the OL and DL."
On being dean of coaches in the SEC.
"This job is more difficult every year. You go through many things to survive. I've coachd 38 years and have been on top and the bottom and in between."
"The biggest thing is the process you go through is all fact-finding. None of us have privy to that information. For anybody in this room to write what the ending will be would be very irresponsible on their part. I don't think anybody has that crystal ball. It's a long process to find out what is fact and what is fiction."
Kamau Jackson appeal status.
"It is still in the process. The SEC and the NCAA are in the process of handling it. He will practice while they are looking at it. Hopefully, it will be made before the start (of the season)."
On cause of the drop-off the past two years.
"We were able to mask certain weaknesses, then on one play South Carolina jumps into an unbalanced wing and runs a basic sweep that goes 43 yards. That popped the bubble and we couldn't blow it back up either because of injuries or making a catch. The train has bottomed out but is going back up hill because you have players who are very talented and will be around a long time."
Biggest concerns going into season.
"We have to get a tight end to replace Donald Lee. We have more depth than we've had, but we didn't have one player who came out of spring (heads above the rest).
"We felt we had to to find two conerbacks during the spring, but we found only one (Odell Bradley). We have to find the other one. We feel very confident in the (newcomers) coming in. We have some with a lot of ability who will help. We will not put the (DBs) on an island as we have in the past. We will play a lot more zone."
"It is important that you have depth. Last year we didn't have depth. David Stewart is a very good football player, an All-Conference type player. At right guard, we have (Johnny) Wadley and (Otis) Riddley. At center we have (Chris) McNeil and (Blake) Jones. At left guard we have Brad Weathers, who is a very solid football player. At left guard we have (James) Redmond and (Richard) Burch. Burch is in the same mold as Randy Thomas and Pork Chop Womack. We only have one senior on that list. That is very positive.
"The best thing is we are building our depth back up. We will probably have one newcomer (Donovan Davis) that will have an opportunity to make the travel squad. In the past two years we had opportunities for a lot of them to make the travel squad."
Oregon's football team and the southern heat.
"Our players are excited about playing Oregon. They remember last year's game. Nike has, during the last two or three years, tried to perfect an undergarment that sends air through and keeps the body temperature down.
"Two questions come to mind. One, fair play and competition comes into play. Two, both teams have Nike contracts and you can't give one team something and not give the other one the same. I think they will have to come down here without those."
SEC head of officials Gaston didn't know what number of cowbells would be considered too many. How many cowbells do you think are too many?
"I don't think you can have enough. If you are sitting on that level, then you will hear the cowbells. When you are on the field, it doesn't effect the play."
What would you consider a successful season to be this year?
"Certainly a winning season. You want to compete for the championship. That is what everybody's goal is. We may not go to the championship game, but we will have a say-so in who does."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.